CARBONDALE — Great conditioning and solid depth have been two major factors in Pinckneyville’s success this season.
Both of those turned out to be huge as the Panthers earned a trip to the IHSA state final four on Tuesday night at SIU Arena.
Pinckneyville used an 18-0 run in overtime to defeat Mount Carmel, 60-47, in the Class 2A Super-Sectional.
“This means a lot, and this is the greatest feeling I’ve ever felt in my life,” said Pinckneyville senior J.C. Moll. “I was pretty nervous going into the fourth quarter because it was so close. But we pulled it out and got it done.”
Mount Carmel held a 40-36 lead with one minute left in regulation. That’s when Moll took over. The 5-foot-10 guard converted a four-point play after he was fouled shooting a triple. He also made the game-tying layup with 10 seconds left to send it to overtime.
All told, Moll scored nine straight points for Pinckneyville between the final minute of regulation and the first 30 seconds of overtime. Moll’s 3-pointer gave his squad a 45-44 edge with 3:30 left in overtime.
The Panthers rolled from there.
“That was kind of one of our methods, we pressure them through the first three quarters, and by the fourth quarter, their legs start wearing out,” said Pinckneyville sophomore Dawson Yates. “They start wearing out mentally and committing turnovers that they usually don’t make. That’s when we hop on them. This is amazing. To be able to play with these guys is a blessing. You’re not going to find another group of guys like this.”
Pinckneyville post players Tyler Rice and Tanner Spihlmann both fouled out early in the overtime session trying to contain Mount Carmel’s 6-foot-8 manchild, Jackson Marcotte, a Wyoming signee in football.
But it didn’t matter. Grant Jausel and Yates both faced a 1-and-1 from the foul line with Pinckneyville nursing a small lead. Both players sank the freebies.
“We’re a good free-throw shooting team; we only had one bad game all year,” said Pinckneyville coach Bob Waggoner. “Our guys have a lot of confidence at the line.”
The Panthers were 17-for-20 for the game at the charity stripe. After some lackluster play during the second and third quarters, Pinckneyville turned it up a notch in the fourth period and overtime.
“It means so much because we’ve been together for so long,” Waggoner said. “It means a lot for me on a personal level because there are so many different guys that have been close but couldn’t get out of the sectional. It’s not easy. A lot of people go their whole career and don’t get this done. For us to do it twice within the last 10 years and once as an assistant, it just means a lot to me. It means a lot to our community, and it binds us together. As you can tell, it was blue over SIU today.”
Moll finished with 24 points for Pinckneyville, which improved to 31-3. Yates added 11 points, and Spihlmann contributed 10. Kyle Luke added nine points as well.
Brayden Stipp paced the Golden Aces with 17 points, and Marcotte tallied 12.
Pinckneyville takes on Winnebago at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the Class 2A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria.